Rebirth of Reason

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Post 20

Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 3:13pmSanction this postReply

I just ordered your book on Amazon, but I chose free shipping, so it'll take 5-8 business days to get the darn thing.



Post 21

Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 4:03pmSanction this postReply
Fred and Ed, thanks!

Steve, I agree that the step to seeking rewards in an afterlife is incredibly important.  It changes everything!

Post 22

Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 5:05pmSanction this postReply

I've ordered your book (It was a great price for the Kindle version, but I wanted the book-in-hand). It should be here soon.

- Setting up the after-life reward or punishment
- Creating lots of rituals and more formal structures
- Reinforcing any particular demands by making the religion itself a holy, sacred thing and therefore everything in it becomes more unquestionable.
- Evoking the kind of group-think that turns peer pressure into attacks on those who dare to question.
- use mysticism to make it unknowable in principle

All of those things tend to increase the power while at the same time they cut the moral and ethical percepts loose from reality and allow them to shift from serving the individual, to serving society, and then to serving God - completing the floating of morality as an abstraction. And shifting it from being done by the individual to serve himself, to having the individual serving anyone that can claim they should be the recipient of the sacrifice that is ordained as a sacred duty his eternal soul depends upon.

Post 23

Monday, September 19, 2011 - 9:18pmSanction this postReply
Thanks Steve.

Regarding your five points, the fifth is already covered by the first.  Once the afterlife is the criteria of success, the moral theory is disconnected from reality.  You can't tell if the way you are practicing it is correct or not, and there must be some agent outside of reality that has power of the afterlife to which your moral efforts are aimed at pleasing.

Post 24

Monday, September 19, 2011 - 9:41pmSanction this postReply
Thanks, Joe.

Your book came late this afternoon. I've just started it, and I'm enjoying it.

When I put in point #5, I was thinking of things like claims of Miracles, and statements that God works his will in mysterious ways that we can't understand, and that sort of thing - the way that religious advocates shortcut any attempt to bring reason to things like that.

Post 25

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 11:54amSanction this postReply

Another argument in favor of the 'broad view of morality' is that it embraces the singular view; the same cannot be said of the singular view. The views are not equivalent, they are not symmetric peers. One is actually a subset of the other.

The broader view is a much fairer view(in my broad view of morality) for the purpose of a fair discussion of morality. As you well point out, if by definition, morality is exclusively defined as Christian Morality as revealed by the Bible, then by definition, an atheist cannot be moral, and the analysis is over. But...nothing at all about the useful nature of morality to all of us is learned--as well as the ability of atheists to be 'moral' -- with that narrow, restrictive view.

And, even linking it to the broad concept of religious freedom and tolerance that defines the American political context(though, there is nothing in your argument that restricts it to just that political context), I would recognize that in at least our political context, the bias would be towards a broad interpretation of morality-- in fact, the tradition in this nation, even expressed in terms of the majority religion, is as declared in examples like the VA BoR, one that places a responsibility of "Christian forbearance' on each of us -- a refraining from enforcement of majority views on others -- within the limits of some principles of freedom associated with our political context.

But, that is within a given political context; your analysis of morality seems(so far) to be independent of any concept of political context(neither an enforced theocracy nor a constitutionally limited secular free nation)and so, the fairest interpretation is indeed a broad interpretation of morality.

In practice-- in Iran, not so much. In America-- much more so. I'm reading your book in America, and so, have no trouble at all accepting your assertion.

I wanted to comment on one other motivation for moral behavior, a totally selfish one: "What kind of world do I want to live in, in my little piece of it?" The "Golden Rule" is, at its foundation, rational self-interest.

Such motivation is clearly accessible by atheists.


Post 26

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 11:44amSanction this postReply

"The Golden Rule" is a well traveled basis for many frameworks of morality, appearing often throughout history, and not uniquely in god worshiping religions; Taoism, for example (religion? philosophy?)

As a modern point of reference, a new beach-head in the war of the I vs. the We, there is this attack on individual freedom:

"The New Golden Rule"


Summarized as, "Do unto Society as you would have it do onto you." It is a description of morality expressed from a 'communitarian' approach, to include not relations among individuals, but between individuals and their new feudal master, "S"ociety, in the name of a new competing entity: "social order." Individual autonomy (the herdists re marketing of the unpalatable "individual liberty and freedom")must be 'balanced' -- compromised -- against the 'competing interests' of a 'social order.'

And by 'must' they mean, because communitarians say so.

These are not competing interests of individuals who simply want something in the world, why no; these are competing interests of something that transcends mere individuals; "S"ociety.

The eons old "Golden Rule" was far too individual oriented, and did not require the deification of "S"ociety and elevation of the deity above mankind, and so, modern herdists are dreaming up new 'social constructs' such as 'The New Golden Rule.'

These folks are busy, staying up night, dreaming this ...shit... up.


(Edited by Fred Bartlett on 10/01, 8:08am)

Post 27

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 12:03pmSanction this postReply

A literal warrior from the War of the We vs. the I.

From the same author (Etzioni):

The Moral Dimension offers an examination of the role of ethics, moral values, and community in economics. Overall this book argues for the replacing of the neoclassical paradigm with the "I & We" paradigm. Etzioni's argument is divided into three parts.

Part one argues that rather than assuming people seek to maximize one utility, people are better theorized as pursuing two utilities: pleasure and morality. This analysis seeks to capture the difference between inner commitment and extrinsic motivation, "The behavior of a person who feels he/she ought to work hard is different from that of one who feels it pays to work hard" (p. 46). Etzioni bases this claim on studies of altruism, saving behavior, voting, and support for public television.

Part two critiques the rational decision-making model of neoclassical thought. Etzioni offers a cognitive-limits critique. In place of rational choice, Etzioni argues people are impacted by normative and affective factors. These decisions are made within three zones: In zone one the decision maker does what's right as values and emotions fully determine the choice. In zone two, choices are infused with normative/affective considerations, thus these choices are heavily weighted. In zone three, choices made on rational grounds for normative/affective reasons.

Part three argues that the unit for economic analysis should be the collectivity, not the individual, as, "collectivities are more consequential in forming the choices of individuals than the individuals themselves" (p. 181)

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Post 28

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 8:27amSanction this postReply

When arguing for the function of morality in our lives, some often argue that there is something larger than any of us that we are all a part of-- a higher purpose than our own individual lives. (That tactic isn't limited to classicly religious arguments, but to secular arguments as well, if we remove the deification of "S"ociety from 'religious' argument and accept it to be a secular argument.)

When confronted with that argument for a particular facet of morality, my response to folks who make that argument is that implementing their individual worldview for them is not that something, is not that higher purpose; it is just crass leg-lifting.

The individual politic tactic of hypothesizing an authority above all of us individually ... and then jarringly speaking for it as individuals and presenting our individual interpretations of what this remote supreme and yet curiously otherwise mute authority demands of us individually... is the oldest carny huckster political trick in the book.

It appears so often, in so many variants, that it speaks to its effectiveness as a political tool of leverage, using an infinite lever arm to advantage a fulcrum far out of either our reach or grasp.

Post 29

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 8:54amSanction this postReply

RE: Lack of Restraints

When one advertises that they consider murder/theft/coercion as an acceptable means of gaining, they also advertise that they consider them an acceptable means of losing.

The rational self-interest apparent in 'The Golden Rule' as one foundational basis for morality is apparent, and explains its almost universal appearance in the history of morality-- one that spans both religious and secular frameworks.


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Post 30

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 9:43amSanction this postReply

"It is sometimes argued that religious values are objective because they are defined by their god. In one sense, this is suggesting that the values are still subjective, but that they are the subjective will of their god."

Rowlands, Joseph (2011). Morality Needs No God (p. 39). Joseph Rowlands. Kindle Edition.

In another sense, it was a colloquial way of expressing the belief that objective values were safely out of reach from political gerrymandering by individuals; and yet, where it all goes to Hell is that such a scheme requires translation/interpretation by individuals of what those objective values are and how they are 'revealed.' It is that process of necessary translation/interpretation that exposes that scheme to political chicanery and carny hucksterism.

I can't slide an Angstrom between the process of divining and speaking for Divine objective values (above and beyond all mere local individual contingencies)and the process of divining and speaking for "S"ocial objective values(above and beyond all mere local individual contingencies.)

Above and beyond...except for the instances of mere local individual contingencies who step up to speak for those otherwise mute entities, who postulate them as an absolute authority, and then steal that authority to implement their personal individual worldview.

The political process is identical in every significant respect.

Another imperfect tool in assessing mankind's constructed morality is 'The Test of Time,' which is an expensive laboratory for 'revealing' useful aspects of constructed morality. (This is a tough sell for new, evolutionary frameworks, but a necessary fact of life for new, evolutionaly frameworks to face up to.) Success is a tough argument to beat, just as failure is an easy flaw to take advantage of. Fortunately for mankind, our constructed foundations of morality are not really all or nothing monolithic entities, and it is entirely possible and reasonable to pick the peanuts from the poop when constructing a new foundation for morality--which has happened often throughout the history of mankind, in an evolutionary fashion.

"Golden Rule" is one such concept that has clearly passed that test, and which has appeared repeatedly and often in mankind's constructed foundations of morality.

There is also a now 6,000 year old Jewish tradition of religious values to regard. What is it that has enabled this often prosecuted religious minority to yet achieve a disproportionate amount of success in an often hostile world? And as I've hypothesized, a world that has been largely hostile precisely because of that disproportionate success.

What are the peanuts that we should not be ignoring in that 6,000 yr old running foundation of morality experiment?

Regard for education, hard work, family, a flattest possible religious model (you-God) that permits the least amount of political chicanery(ranks of men in funny hats ordered under some corporate model, speaking for God...)

There is something to be learned by examining successful religious models of morality, even for a secular framework.

An objective sign of dissatisfaction/failure of a particular foundation of morality is a continuous history of splintering. When you compare the objective history of the two major branches of the Judeao-Christian faith going back 2000 years, there is a nearly unbroken thread on one branch-- a continuation of a 6,000 year old tradition, and a never ending disintegration on the other. The objective Test of Time is not treating those two branches equally at all.

Those two branches share many core values, but not all, and the most telling, I think, are primarily political, and thus, useful to examine in constructing a secular foundation of morality.

Clearly, both are religions, are in fact, the poster children for classical 'R'eligions in the West. Both share a common God. But, which has done the most to literally bring that mysticism to earth, which has done the least(with the exception of some splinter on again/off again Kabbalah sects)? Can the two branches really be said to be fully equal in their embrace of mysticism here on earth, and if not, is there something about the differing natures of their embrace of mysticism on earth that is revealing?

On a hypothetical mysticism-on-earth scale, they may have the same sign, but significantly different magnitudes. Can that examination objectively inform/reveal something to us?


Post 31

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 10:08amSanction this postReply
about living within a social context.

Rowlands, Joseph (2011). Morality Needs No God (p. 46). Joseph Rowlands. Kindle Edition.

It is so refreshing to see someone refer to 'a social context' (one of many) as opposed to 'the social context' (as if there was only one such.)

Post 32

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 10:39amSanction this postReply
Take an example of a beautiful sunrise. It might stir very powerful emotions within you. A religious person might be tempted to declare that this is a creation of God, that its beauty is divine, and therefore it is a religious value.

Rowlands, Joseph (2011). Morality Needs No God (p. 56). Joseph Rowlands. Kindle Edition.

A non-religious person might be grateful for their existence, in this Universe, as it is, both for having created the opportunity to experience that sunrise, and for having created the sunrise.

If what we are grateful to as 'the creator' of both the experience, as well as the opportunity to experience it, is 'the Universe, as it is,' ... is that a religious value?

Is it allowed to be, or is it prohibited to be?

Is there any significant difference in the 'outcome' -- the literal creation of both the opportunity to experience and the experience itself, in both views of 'the creator?'

Or...the gratitude/happiness that one realizes at the experience?

Said another way...are atheists able to enjoy a sunrise without God, in a similar deeply profound way, including gratitude and happiness, as theists? I think so.

Evolution acknowledging atheists are not denying the fact that the experience was 'created', merely that the experience was 'C'reated (as in, by a Supreme Being other than mankind.) And yet, in both camps, the experience was clearly not 'created' by mankind. (Well, when we were dumping particulates in the air, certain colorful aspects of sunsets were in fact inadvertently 'created' by mankind, but not the main point.) The experience was 'created', I assume most atheists believe, by cold process, the Universe, as it is, and by definition, that act of 'creation' is not demonstrably the same as an act of "C"reation by an intelligent, supreme being.

The Universe, as it is, under some restrictive definition of 'The Creator', is permitted to 'create' all that is, and yet, ... is not permitted to be 'The Creator.'

'The Creator' ... under both secular and religious definitions of 'The Creator' -- is in some sense not permitted to be the Cold Process of the Universe, as it is.

For oddly symmetric reasons: acknowledging that would secularize a deity for some to too great an extent, and would deify cold process for others to too great an extent.

But moot, because we all enjoy that sunrise, and are grateful for 'something' when we see it. Our lives-- no matter how we believe those lives were created in this Universe, as it is.


Post 33

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 1:53pmSanction this postReply
It could also be because some atheists do in fact favor a system of crass materialism.

Rowlands, Joseph (2011). Morality Needs No God (p. 61). Joseph Rowlands. Kindle Edition.

As well, it could also be because some theists do in fact favor a system of crass materialism; if you can witness the ornate gilded splendor of your basic Catholic church and not sense a little crass materialism about, you have your eyes closed. (Hey, wait a minute...)

Some expressions of corporate religion are profoundly historically 'materialistic' and are literally centered on the material entity 'the church' as the focus of religious expression...to the point of culminating in their own physical/material country/nation/aggregation of wealth.

Post 34

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 2:22pmSanction this postReply
They view money as if it were evil, even describing the love of money as the root of all evil.

Rowlands, Joseph (2011). Morality Needs No God (p. 74). Joseph Rowlands. Kindle Edition.

What is illuminating about those who claim that is, they often make that claim in the context of wanting you to willingly give up more of yours to them and their uses for 'evil' money.

I know the central premise of your book was not the role of money as value-proxy, but the manner in which it provides flexibility as deferred present consumption, especially over long timescales, I don't think is widely recognized or appreciated--and this impacts understanding of it in a context of morality. It involves the required balanced symmetry between accelerated consumption of future value (credit) and deferred consumption of present value (savings/investment.) I think most people view money, as a value-proxy, that somehow can still do that over the long term by being placed under a mattress, as 'money.' Locally, and in small amounts, and over a short timescale, maybe. But not broadly in our economies, over widescale usage, over a long period of time.

This misunderstanding of what money as a value-proxy is not only impacts our moral understanding of what money is as a personal value-proxy is, but our understanding of what money as a value-proxy can reasonably do as an instrument of public policy. An incomplete understanding of money as a value-proxy leads to certain foolish beliefs about what can be achieved by printing money, for example. It allows us to accept a public policy of constant massive de-investment in future economies, as if without consequence. Even, moral consequences, as in, what we do to our children with tolerance of such beliefs and policies.

A whole other book...not just another chapter.

Post 35

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 2:47pmSanction this postReply
Trade is an enormous value because it multiplies your ability to create wealth.

Rowlands, Joseph (2011). Morality Needs No God (p. 82). Joseph Rowlands. Kindle Edition.

..no matter how you define wealth. The advantage -- to all of us-- of participating in economies based on trade and specialization-- enhanced by the use of intermediate value-proxies-- even in areas that we could otherwise do for ourselves if we chose, is that each of us -- all of us -- has the opportunity to benefit from the most efficient providers of everything we choose to trade for in our life. (I still can't produce a gallon of refined gasoline for anything close to $5 of my time; I want to know who can?) The result-- if we choose -- is to have the most 'wealth' defined as the most hours left over at the end of the week for free time, if that is what we value most, or if not, the most opportunity to cover new ground in the same limited hours we all get and which never seem to be enough for all we want to do.

One of the key elements that permits the model above is the use of value-proxies/money as a medium of trade. The benefits of doing so are so great that we tolerate the disadvantages of doing so, which are, the creation of brand new opportunities for gaming/stealing/cheating in our economies, bases on abuse of those value-proxies. The enormous advantages to the enjoyment/fulfillment of our lives far outweighs the 'evil' that some project when it comes to the abuses of money as value proxies, or else we would all be total fools for continuing to base our interactions on value-proxies.

Notwithstanding the abuser wannabees who argue 'money is evil, so give us more of yours' as part of their political arguments.

Post 36

Friday, October 7, 2011 - 12:22pmSanction this postReply
I'm really enjoying the section on Faith/Reason.

I think you've really bent over backwards to present a fair representation of the importance of faith to those who have faith, without unduly denigrating faith.

But I say that as someone with little faith, to someone who I assume has little faith. I wonder how someone with faith would score your presentation?

"It is then argued that there must be some first cause that started the whole process, and of course that first cause is claimed to be God."

Rowlands, Joseph (2011). Morality Needs No God (p. 93). Joseph Rowlands. Kindle Edition.

The Universe, even as a quincunx game: who is dropping the balls, and/or who dropped the first ball?

We can, if we choose, readily blur 'explained by' with 'caused by', as, an actor, and then wonder about the existence of a 'first actor/creator.' And, many do. But that process is still as curious if we limit ourselves to cold process, with our bias that only actions cause future actions. Under such a bias as that, if we wonder about the logic of a 'first creator with no prior creator', than we are equally flummoxed by the concept of a 'first cold process with no causative prior process.'

Considerations of other dimensional universes, M-Brane collisions, etc., just kick this conundrum down the road.

Perhaps we are because we can be. Here is a hypothetical basis for a new faith: (RPM: Religion Per Minute)

No conservative laws are violated by the following:


A + -A = 0, even if A <> 0

That is two for the conservative price of none.

I call this the 'however many universes there are, there must be an even number of them' conservative rule, safely unverifiable for now.

I can't prove it. It's just that, to me, it seems more likely than to have just one such(or any odd number of such, including 1.

So what do we call the aggregate of all such? We can accurately call it both everything, and on a complete accounting basis, nothing.

Because to have just one of them seems to violate some fundamental conservative law, and leads us to the conclusion that something came from nothing, while the conclusion that two somethings (or, at least, an even number of somethings) came from nothing violates no known conservative law.

The verified existence of matter and anti-matter supports this idea.

A + -A = 0; No conundrum. Not 'something from nothing', but 'two somethings from nothing.'

Why do they exist? Because they can. It is no less accurate to ask 'who was to stop them' then it is to imagine 'who created them?'

Imagine matter and anti-matter constantly appearing ( A + -A = 0) and immediately obliterating itself; how much of a local random fluctuation in either the density of matter or anti-matter is needed for one or the other to (locally) dominate and result in some period of persistent 'matter' in what is a sea of only what we call energy? We observe conservation laws in things like energy and matter...with exceptions, and with Einsteins observed exchange rate between the two. So, which of these are violated by some period, over a local region, of either dominant matter or anti-matter? A local gradient, in the inevitable act of consuming itself, also observable in the universe. It is a stretch to think of 'matter' as 'condensed' energy in some fashion, but acts of pure faith are filled with stretch marks.

This local fluctuation, a dominance of either matter or anti-matter, would selectively destroy/police the local spontaneous creation of the minority half of matter/anti-matter. It implies, at the moment of the Big Bang, a symmetric fluctuation of dominant anti-matter mutually speeding away from the local fluctuation of dominant matter, to keep the accounting clean-- a separation 'powered' by the cataclysmic annihilation of matter-antimatter occurring in an asymmetric fashion at the heart of the Big Bang. Both Universes (A + -A) would be moving away from each other at a speed in excess of their rate of expansion, forever safely invisible to each other, and thus, unprovable to each other.

The result in each universe? Perplexing, seemingly impossible violations of the locally observed conservation laws, when pondering the safely hidden.

And so, believing any story like that would require a lot of faith.

Post 37

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 2:03amSanction this postReply
Hi Fred.  You made lots of comments!  Thanks.  I'll try responding to a few.

I agree with your statements about the 'broad view of morality'.  And in the context of this debate, only the broad view makes any sense.
On the topic of We vs. I, I just got done reading a book about morality where the focus was on what "we" should do, instead of what you or I or any specific person should do.  That language ended up completely changing the moral conclusions.
It's true that some theists might practice a morality that seems more consistent with crass materialism.  My point was not that theists are better behaved or more rational, but that there are some reasons why these generalizations are so popular, even if they aren't valid.
Agreed that people who complain about the evil of money are usually interested in having all of yours.  Altruists in general recognize money as a tool of self-interested actions.  But altruists aren't indifferent to wealth.  Altruism is concerned with helping others materially.  You help the poor by giving them money.  Money/wealth is central to their moral beliefs.  They are crass materialists in a much more meaningful sense.

Glad you're enjoying the section on Faith/Reason.  I think Luke answered the question of how people who accept faith score my presentation!  And without reading any of it!  But yeah, I wonder how a fair reader might take many of the points and arguments in my book. 

Post 38

Monday, December 19, 2011 - 11:08amSanction this postReply
On sources of 'sacrificing for others' seen as a virtue.

I've wondered about this, why it is seen as a virtue.

There is the obvious reason; "This person will serve others interests, including my own interests, before their interests."

But wait a minute; if that is true, then... isn't regarding altruism a virtue in fact a sin of self-interest?

I'll leave that for others.

Is part of the source for the prevailing high regard for altruism the following? (I don't know, I am wondering.)

I am talking about the regard that others widely have for those who act altruistically.

We all might target virtue and success in all endeavors, but we imperfectly hit those targets. We are inevitably -sometimes- wrong, even in the attempt to rationally determine our own self-interests. Therefore, an -occasional- willingness to act altruistically -- to appear to place others interests above your own -- is regarded as a sign of recognition of one's own imperfection in realizing objective truth, to the point of being willing to act in the best interests of others. That is, when self-confronted with the objective 'wrongness' of one's position in a given circumstance, a willingness to act with altruism in some circumstances is an acknowledgement of fealty to right and wrong, truth and falsehood, success and failure -- even on the topic of one's own self-interest.

This is not the same as a rationalization to -always- embrace altruism, to set that as an a priori goal in and of itself, as a virtue. That would make a virtue of forever being wrong about assessing one's self-interests. In fact, that would make it a virtue to admire folks who were always wrong about their rational self-interests.

I am talking about those occasions when it seems that our interests are in conflict with others. (They are not always as simple as a conflict between a rapist and their intended victim, a circumstance where 'altruism' barely applies.)

To make an absolute sin out of ever placing one's own interests above others is the flip side of making it an absolute sin out of ever placing another's interests above our own. Sometimes we are wrong in our assessment of our self-interests, and the -occasional- admission of that reality is a sign of fealty to that reality, and because of that, an indication to others that we can be trusted on occasion to recognize the truth of our fallibility, even in determining our rational self-interest.

But...only as an occasional honest broker admission of failure, which is much different than advocacy of a paradigm based on 'forever failing' (to accurately recognize one's rational self-interest.)

How heretical is that thought? Does part of that dynamic explain why altruism is and can be, under some circumstances, regarded positively? Or is it an absolute evil under all and any circumstances? Granted, as Rand defines it, it is an absolute evil under all circumstances. But as she describes it, we are all perfectly identifying our rational self-interest at all times, without failure, and under that hypothetical, it would be wrong to sacrifice those interests to competing others in conflict, based on no other reason than they are held by others.

Does Rand make altruism an absolute evil, simply as necessary hyperbole in a world that is pushing it as an absolute virtue? It is, at its root, a what should be fringe failure to accurately recognize our rational self interest--even when that is recognized and it is applied towards others.

I don't think she actually does make altruism an absolute evil. I think her argument on the topic is more akin to, "acts of apparent altruism are most often incorrectly diagnosed acts of rational self-interest that only appear to be altruistic from afar, including acts by Mother Theresa."

Those who profess a desire for the incorrect perception of altruism imagine a world where Mother Theresa went home every night and hated every moment of her existence here on earth, condemning her to a bed of nails.

The deliberate targeting of that imagined bed of nails for humanity is ... mind boggling.


(Edited by Fred Bartlett on 12/19, 11:21am)

Post 39

Monday, December 19, 2011 - 12:19pmSanction this postReply
This is a bit off topic, but perhaps not too far.

Do you feel (not believe) like you have the right to stand against the collective (those with need, the group, peers, the consensus, etc.)?

Does man's positive potential inspire you, and does your sense of life drive you to seek out expressions of man's greatness in the arts?

Or would the most honest answer to those two questions be, "Yes, but not 100%."

We tend be creatures of mixed premises. Most of us were raised by people we trusted, and most of those people were not staunch individualists who felt comfortable asserting their rights against any form of collective, group of others, tribe, etc. And not all of our parents clearly saw man's natural state as one of greatness and achievement.

And when we are young, we absorb beliefs almost osmotically and we integrate that we take in - what we once processed in some manner or another, as a child, is still with us in our subconscious, to some degree.

Psychology being what it is, we end up with a subconscious view of ourselves that might not always coincide with our reality. Very often in our subconscious we see ourselves as more flawed than we really are. The mixed views of ourselves, and the mixed views of human nature... of others, is what ends up driving so much of our sense of life and often inhibiting the natural flow of actions towards our goals (assertiveness).

Often, aspects of altruism unwittingly absorbed as child, are integrated, and evolve in our life - even if only to a minor degree, and it relates to self-esteem (self-assertiveness in particular) and to the sense of life as I've described it. Where self-esteem is low for whatever reason, it is easier to act more on an altruistic basis. I'm not talking about consciously making a sacrifice for moral reasons, but rather, holding still and not asserting ourselves, perhaps into a risky competitive situation. And if an altruistic impulse is fairly strong, we are tempted with forms of evasions, denials, or repressions that diminish self-esteem

Our conscious minds are such that we are offered the opportunity to be conflict free, to reason out the proper principles and hold to them. But it isn't as easy to clear out past years of osmotically absorbed messages and the mixed integrations they brought about. I'd guess that most of us are rational egoists in the area the counts most - our chosen beliefs, but at the same time are occassionaly plagued by feelings coming from somewhere in the subconcious that seem to conflict, to muddle, to hamper assertiveness - feelings that appeal to guilts we shouldn't have, etc. Or, maybe that's just me.

The point being... that altruism in the practical world of you and me is often more subtle, and more psychological, than philosophical. And that the internal sense of it being right to own what is yours, and the sense that looking towards examples of man's greatness is emotionally refueling are the measures of ones non-altruist nature.

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